As most people are familiar with the 40 days of Lent, I bet you don’t know that some Christians observe a period of 70 days of Lent? Anyways, it’s s an ancient practice that is biblical and full of spiritual meaning.
The liturgical discipline is normally called Septuagesima (from the Latin word meaning “seventieth”), and it starts on the ninth Sunday before Easter. It is classified as a “pre-Lenten” period and included in the “Easter Cycle” in the liturgical year.
The practice started as far back as, at least to the 8th century and basically consists of three Sundays that precede the beginning of Lent ( Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima, from the Latin for the 70th, 60th, and 50th days before Easter ). The “40th” day is called Quadragesima Sunday and it occurs after Ash Wednesday. Also the wearing of violet vestments and the omission of the Gloria and Alleluia in the liturgy is included in this practice.
Every Sunday also has a particular scriptural emphasis, digging into the early periods of salvation history and finding the fulfillment of all things in Jesus Christ.
Septuagesima means Christ is the New Adam
Sexagesima means Christ is the true Noah
Quinquagesima means Christ is the true Abraham
In the spiritual sense, the season of Septuagesima has been said to portray the 70 years of Israel’s exile in Babylon. Meanwhile, the Catholic Encyclopedia describes that, “it may simply mean the earliest day on which some Christians began the forty days of Lent, excluding Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday from the observance of the fast.”
This exact season continues to be practiced by those who follow the calendar of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.
One Orthodox priest says, “Orthodox Christians observe the starting of the pre-lenten season of the Church year through the use of a liturgical book known as the Triodion.
Using the Triodion begins with the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee, which is the 10th Sunday before Holy Pascha [Easter] and the 22nd day before the beginning of Great Lent.” Any of these Sundays in this period have a specific scriptural focus that prepares a person for the observance of Great Lent.
The First Sunday of the Triodion Period is the Sunday of The Publican and Pharisee.
The Second Sunday of the Triodion Period is the Sunday of The Prodigal Son.
The Third Sunday of the Triodion Period is the Sunday of The Last (Meatfare Sunday, that’s to say, the last day meat can be eaten).
The Fourth Sunday of the Triodion Period – Sunday of Forgiveness (Cheesefare Sunday that is the last day dairy products can be consumed).
Both traditions from the East and West place a great emphasis on preparation for the upcoming season of Lent, a special time when Christians are called to go into the desert and examine their lives and prepare their hearts for the Paschal mystery.